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from the top of the Colosseum the Metropolis, the first on our planet, beyond all doubt and comparison,' he could not help the invading thought, What an awful, what a direful spectacle it was in one view,-the stupendous amount of sin in it.' So when he heard of the extension of Hebden-bridge, his melancholy comment was- This, on a more moral account than its breaking up the old picture in my imagination, did not please me at all. It was just saying that there were so many more sinners in the locality. Unless men were better, an augmented number is nothing to be pleased with. On the contrary, I am always apt to be pleased at seeing vacated cities, and houses deserted and in ruins.' His prospects for the race could not escape the contagion of these views. He was 'compelled to conclude that religion is utterly incompetent to reform the world, till it is armed with some new and most mighty powers; till it appears in a new and last dispensation.' Much more of the same kind might be quoted. There need not be any difficulty in accounting for it all. He had a natural sympathy with the awful. The sight of the buttercup, as betokening the far advance of the season, sometimes led him to exclaim, 'I've seen a fearful sight to-day-I've seen a buttercup!' His theological views were of the darkest kind. His conception of human depravity fell scarcely short of physical inability, while his principle of necessity led him to approve the sentiment, Whatever is, is right.' But there were other and higher elements at work. He brought to his investigations of human character and experience a moral sense exquisitely acute, and a faculty of perception singularly keen. The phenomena that many minds pass by as involving nothing of importance, suggested the most profound reflections, and awakened the most energetic emotions, within his breast. Upon one stone' were seven eyes.' is very easy, doubtless, for the superficial and the careless, who go through the world without meeting with any difficulties, or becoming at all conscious that one of the most solemn functions and effects of the present system of things is that of a severe moral test and probation of men, to condemn the intellect that wonders, and the heart that sometimes trembles, at the providence of God. Mr. Foster will be very severely handled by this class-a class whom he was in the habit of looking upon as among the most mysterious of all the mysterious things in the universe. At the same time, it would be preposterous to deny that Mr. Foster's mind sometimes yielded to morbid influences; that he felt it, as he confesses, most difficult to preserve anything like an ardent benevolence towards mankind; that a very strong tendency to misanthropy' occasionally showed itself; and that he was often tempted
rather to bewail the wickedness and misery of the world, than to set resolutely about the task of amending it. While admitting this, let it not be forgotten, that the brightest light casts the deepest shade.
We should have liked very much to present various specimens of Mr. Foster's style of sentiment and writing from his correspondence, but it is impossible. Nor can we attempt to characterize its contents. One thing appears in it with beautiful distinctness-the deep and humble piety of the writer. This was the conservative influence of his intellect and heart. It is not to be wondered at that his religious feelings were mostly conversant with the mysterious. The state of the departed especially engaged his thoughts. To know the secrets of the world to come was almost a passion with him—a passion revived and quickened by the deaths of his friends, and his own approaching dissolution. The nearer I approach by advancing age to the grand experiment, the more inquisitive, I might almost say, restlessly inquisitive, I become respecting that other scene and state of our existence.' These are the inquiries he supposes to be made to a visitant from that world ::
Where is it-in what realm of the creation-and have you an abode fixed to one locality? Do you exist as an absolutely unembodied spirit; or have you some material vehicle, and if so, of what nature? In what manner was it at your entrance verified to you that you were in another world, and with what emotion? Was an angel your conductor? How does the strange phenomenon, Death, appear to you, now that you look back upon it? What thought or feeling have you respecting your deserted body? What is your mode of perceiving external existence, and to what extent does that perception reach? Do you retain a vivid and comprehensive remembrance of the world and the life which you have quitted? Are you associated with the friends who preceded you in death? What is the manner of intercommunication? What are specifically your employments? What account do you take of time? What new manner of manifestation of the divine presence? Is there a personal manifestation of Jesus Christ? Have you a sense, a faculty, to perceive angels as personal objects, analogously to what we should here call a visible appearance? Are you admitted to any personal knowledge of the wise and good of ancient times? Is there an assignment into classes? Do the newly arrived acquire immediately an adaptation to the amazing change? Do you still take a peculiar interest, for those who were dear to you, whom you left behind? Have you any intimation how long it will be before they follow? Are you apprised continuously of much, or of any thing, that is taking place on earth; if so, by what means, and with what feelings? Have you any appointed intervention in the affairs of this world? Is the awful mystery of the divine government of this world in any degree cleared
up to your view? Is the great intellectual superiority which some have possessed on earth maintained in the other world? Is there a continual progress in knowledge; if so, must not those who have been in the spiritual world centuries, or thousands of years, be so immensely in advance of those recently entering, as to be almost humiliating to the latter? In what manner is the retributive destination signified?-is it by any formal judicial act, or only by a deep internal consciousness? Is the separation so wide between the good and the evil that no distinct information of the condition of the one is conveyed to the other? Or are they so mutually apprised as our Lord's parable of Dives and Lazarus would seem to intimate? How is maintained your complacency in the appointment to wait an indefinite, but certainly very, very long period, before the attainment of complete and ultimate happiness?'-vol. ii. pp. 366, 367.
Mr. Foster was a dissenter from principle. Strongly convinced that religious establishments are engines of oppression, and obstacles to true godliness, he contemplated them with an indignation which had almost the severity of personal hate. There could be no mistake as to the exciting cause of his animosity. The christianity that was in him rose up in protest against what he deemed, and believed he could prove, to be one of the gravest of spiritual nuisances.* His letters to the Morning Chronicle, and to Mr. Cottle, sufficiently disclose the religious character of his main objections. We cannot refrain from citing a passage from a letter, written in 1840 to Sir C. E. Smith, bearing very closely on a matter of considerable interest just now.
Here occurs to me a consideration which strikes me very strongly. You wish the controversy to be carried on in an amicable manner; quite right for an intercommunication direct, and almost, as it were, personal, between the parties. But at the same time in an interchange of reasonings on these terms, the dissenter is precluded from by far the most effective of his resources; I mean, an unqualified exhibition of the practical character of the hierarchy reviewed on the wider ground of history, or (more immediately avail
* We can foresee that use will be made of Mr. Foster's name in condemning the present aggressive movements of dissenters. In 1836, he wrote to Mr. Hill, Do you stand quite aloof from the grand dissenting commotion? They (I say not we, for I would not have been a concurring particle in the dust the dissenters have raised-I mean as to the extent of their demands) — have mistaken their policy in calling out (at present) for the separation,' a thing most palpably impracticable, till a few more Olympiads have passed over us.' Without binding ourselves to Mr. Foster's judgment, as an authority, and being least disposed to do so on matters involving a severely practical character, we can scarcely doubt that the circumstances that have occurred since his decease would have greatly affected his views. With the immediate prospect of the endowment of his supreme abomination, Popery, what might he not have done ?'
able) as seen in our own history during the last four generations, and as manifested in the present times. Look at the present state and temper of the church; the intolerance of the most ostensible and prominent portion of it, acquiesced in by the main or whole body, or at least not protested against by any part of it;-the firm alliance with political corruption; the opposition to all sorts of reform; the identifying of Christianity with the establishment, or almost giving the precedence to the latter; the essentially worldly nature of the whole system of appointment by patronage, purchase at auction, etc. etc., and the melancholy and disastrous fact that a vast majority of the clergy teach a doctrine fatally erroneous, if the doctrine of the reformers be true. Now, all this belongs to the dissenters' argument, it is of the essence of their case, and without it they can do but very partial justice to that case. They have a right to insist on this as manifesting the essentially vicious nature of an established church; that these are not mere incidents, foreign and separable; if they had been so, in what country so likely as in England should they have been cleared off, leaving the establishment a pure Christian institution? Why do I trouble you to read this prolixity of sentences? it is to show that the dissenting principle cannot be asserted in the fullness of its legitimate argument in such a controversy as churchmen will admit to be amicable or even civil. They will require you to come away out of sight of all this, and to go quietly with them on some ideal ground of a plausible theory. They will talk to you (just as if the thing were not palpably Utopian) about a supposed ecclesiastical institution, that should send throughout the country some dozen thousand pious, welldisciplined, diligent, exemplary instructors, vigilantly superintended by faithful, zealous, apostolic bishops, authorized and aided in every way by patrons and a government intent on the spiritual welfare of the people; and then they will challenge you with the question. Would not this be an excellent thing, far better than leaving the important concern to voluntaryism, fanaticism, and chance?' To which the proper answer would be, It is not worth making a question about so idle a fiction; wait till the government, the prelacy, and the body of aristocratic patronage shall consist at least of men decidedly religious; till the universities shall be schools of the prophets,' and till young men shall enter the church no longer as a mere profession, or in pursuit of the prizes, but from the serious desire to promote religion. Then bring the question into discussion In the meantime we must be allowed to judge of an establishment according to its actual quality and working, as exemplified in such institutions, heretofore and at the present time, and not according to any fanciful and impracticable theory.'
By all means, let the arguments of a mere theoretical kind, such as may be debated amicably with the better tempered of the opponents, and especially the scriptural one, so much insisted on by Dr. Wardlaw and others, be kept in action. They will be adapted to the small proportion of speculative thinkers. But for popular effect there is incomparably greater power in an exhibition of the actual
vices and mischiefs of establishments, and our own in particular. And the recent and present spirit of the church is such as to deserve no forbearance of this mode of conducting the war-a defensive war as it is.'-vol. ii. pp. 383-385
Among the most important of the letters which appear in these volumes, we would draw especial attention to the 28th, To an unknown lady; the 29th, To the Rev. Joseph Hughes; the 48th, intended to be introductory to the Essays; the 157th, To Joseph Cottle, Esq.; those on the Metropolis, the Established Church and Clergy, and the Voluntary Principle, the Ballot, the Intermediate State, the Eternity of Future Punishments, Missions, and the nine addressed to Miss Saunders.
To one of these letters we must make a further reference, because of the importance of the subject which it discusses. It is that to a young minister, (the Rev. E. White, of Hereford,) in answer to one in which he stated his enquiries and difficulties respecting the eternity of future punishment. It is well known that on that subject Mr. Foster did not hold the opinion which prevails in orthodox circles. He early renounced it. In the year 1796, he wrote to Mr. Hughes, I have discarded the doctrine of eternal punishments,' and he suggests in his letter to Mr. White, the possibility of his having let the opinion (or impression) admitted in early life dispense with protracted inquiry and various reading.' The letter referred to may be reasonably supposed to contain the strongest representation of the case that could well be made within the same compass. We are not surprised that it is not stronger, nor are we surprised that, without being stronger, it should have excited considerable commotion in certain quarters. The name of Foster stood too high to allow of its sanction of a doctrine generally regarded with vehement disapprobation being passed over without particular remark, and orthodox christians are generally too ignorant of the great theological controversies to prevent their deeming novel what is really old. The mode of putting the case adopted by Mr. Foster is one familiar to those who have a tolerable acquaintance with unitarian literature, and it is one which will not be felt very formidable, at least not to involve insuperable difficulties, by those who have fairly grappled with the whole question of orthodox evangelism. Admitting the general, not very far short of universal, judgment of divines in affirmation of the doctrine of eternal punishment,' to be a weighty consideration,' and the language of scripture to be 'formidably strong, so strong that it must be an argument of extreme cogency that would authorise a limited interpretation,' he thinks that he finds the justification of such 'limited interpretation,' in the moral argument-that which comes in the